As The Nation political correspondent Berman ably shows, many factors led to the success of President Obama’s election campaign, but a crucial aspect is often overlooked—the role played by Howard Dean as chairman of the Democratic Party
After his victory speech, the president-elect paid tribute to Dean: “Your fifty-state strategy laid the groundwork for my campaign and I will always be grateful.” In his debut, Berman gives the reader an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at how the Obama campaign built on the grassroots movement that had catapulted Dean to prominence, if not victory, in the 2004 election. Dean had adopted Jimmy Carter’s successful strategy as an outside-the-beltway insurgent, and until his ignominious defeat in the Iowa primary, his slogan—“I’m here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party”—and his public stance against the war in Iraq catapulted him onto the national stage. In 2005, Dean cut through the recriminations in the aftermath of Kerry’s defeat with a simple proposal. Using the experience of his abortive campaign, he argued that there were Democrats in places like Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and even Texas who hungered for change; what the Democrats needed was a campaign in all 50 states. This was directly contrary to the prevailing wisdom that a presidential campaign should concentrate money and personnel only on key swing states—the strategy followed by both Gore and Kerry, both of which ended in defeat. When Dean took over as Party chairman, he began organizing efforts in every state and within states in traditionally Republican rural counties as well as the more liberal urban areas. This led to a stunning turnaround in 2006, when Democrats gained control of Congress, and it laid the groundwork for Obama’s successful grassroots campaign.
Engaging and balanced—a stand-out book.